Opinion: In Wake of Another Mass Shooting, Netflix’s ‘The Punisher’ Hits Too Close to Home

Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle in "Marvel's The Punisher". Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Kris Atienza
Boston University News Service

Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, is not the hero we need right now.

As someone who wears an alarming amount of comic book related merchandise, this seems hypocritical. But as someone who is genuinely scared at the reality that mass shootings seem to happen every other day, we do not need to have Marvel’s “The Punisher” on Netflix any time soon.

Castle is a vigilante and, for lack of better description, a gun for hire.

He first appeared in Marvel’s “Amazing Spider-Man” in 1974. Over time, fans would learn about the character’s tragic past. Castle was a former Marine Captain who, while out with his wife and children in Central Park, became witness to a mafia execution. When the mafia noticed the family at the scene, they shot and killed Castle’s entire family. He then went after the gangsters that killed them and became a man with a mission to punish criminals permanently.

The most important thing you should know about the Punisher, though, is this: his weapons of choice are guns; not just one of them, but a lot of big and powerful ones.

When the Punisher made his first appearance in Netflix’s “Daredevil”, he was a hit. People loved Jon Bernthal as the deadly anti-hero, and Marvel fans’ receptiveness was a huge part of the decision to create his solo series. I was intrigued by this darker, grittier angle Marvel was going for and I looked forward to seeing Bernthal reprise his role.

Then the mass shooting in Las Vegas happened.

The tragedy prompted many questions about who the shooter was and why he would do such a thing. From what we know so far, he was a rich, white man, with unbelievable access to many powerful guns and the means to commit such a terrible act.

As of Oct. 5, we have experienced 275 mass shootings in 2017 according to the Gun Violence Archive’s data, and the year isn’t even over yet.

We don’t need a fictional character to show us how deadly a guy with tons of big guns can be. We already know.

While it would be great to have people be exposed to this darker character who isn’t mainstream, I just don’t think people don’t need to see Frank Castle in action right now.

I can’t feel good about rooting for a guy whose only mission is to kill people with guns bigger than I am. I can’t feel good about rooting for a shooter when it feels like a mass shooting happens every other day. I can’t feel good about rooting for this fictional character when there are real people like Castle that are the reason someone may leave in the morning but not make it home.

I just can’t.

In the over-referenced words of Benjamin Parker, a gunshot victim from the Spider-Man universe, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I commend Marvel and Netflix for recognizing their power and responsibility by pulling the Punisher’s panel at New York Comic Con this year, and for not even saying when the series will be released.

The world does not need be rooting for people like the Punisher right now. We need to be doing things that will lessen the likelihood of another mass shooting filling our headlines. We need to be working towards stopping deaths we can prevent. We need to keep people like Frank Castle in fiction and out of reality.

1 Comment

  • I’m going to make this short since i don’t feel like writing a ton of paragraphs. It seems that you missed the point of what The Punisher is or what he even does. The way you wrote your article makes it seem as if The Punisher is the one who causes(or commits) these events which is simply wrong down to the core of the Character.

    The Punisher is the guy who stops these kind of events from even happening in the first place and While he does kill people, he only kills those who have done wrong. He doesn’t just go out and kill innocent people because thats not the kind of character he is.

    Mass shootings aren’t going to just stop and they likely never will. If people were to keep a mindset like yours then shows like this would never come out.

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